B L O O D T Y P E A N D P E R S O N A L I T Y
Back in November of 1997, I read a story by Joji Sakurai of the Associated Press on psychological typing. (Examples of what I mean by "typing" are systems of personality assessment--scientific or not--such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ™ and astrology.)
This one was new to me, though. It seems there is a widespread belief in Japan that personality is determined by one's blood type.
The idea of a correlation between blood type and personality was first noted in the 1930s during Japan's invasion of eastern Asia. Military leaders commissioned a study on how blood type influences personality in an effort to breed better soldiers.
The war ended, but the concept of a link between blood type and personality remained fixed in the minds of Japanese. Today it is held to be mostly a kind of party game, but there is an underlying seriousness of belief.
Medical experts have insisted for years that there is no scientific correlation between character and blood type, but to no avail. Many Japanese remain hookedon the idea. "It's a modern superstition," said Hiroyoshi Ishikawa, a professor of social psychology at Seijo University. "But it's also a powerful social lubricator. Talking about blood type is the easiest way to establish contact with a stranger."
Although trust in the power of blood type is by no means espoused by all, Ishikawa sees it as an enduring and mainstream belief in a country where fads often flare up suddenly only to fizzle out months later. "Blood type isn't just the latest boom. For many years, it's been a fixed belief in society for young and old alike," he said.
A bartender named Tomotaka Kajiya says he has witnessed numerous examples of this belief among the customers he serves at the "101" bar in the fashionable Naka-Meguro district of Tokyo. "Say a couple comes in on a first date. They'll talk about the drinks they like for a while. Then the subject often turns to blood type to keep the conversation moving along," Kajiya said.
Matchmaking agencies that arrange marriages often use blood type to weed out partnerings thought to have no potential. In tabloids, blood type is used to predict the fortunes of celebrities, and it's the most vital statistic in profiles of up-and-coming stars. "I would never develop a long-term relationship with a B," said Yoshiko Yamazaki, a boutique owner with type A blood. "They're so tiresome. B's tend to be sloppy, so I'd always have to clean up after their dirty underwear."
Beliefs of this kind spill over into many areas. An issue of bea'sUP, a women's magazine, carried this headline on its cover: "EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE BLOOD TYPE DIET." The article says that, in the old days, "O's were a race of hunters, while A's and AB's were farmers." The article goes on to conclude that some are suited to a low-calorie, meat-based diet, while others will be healthier sticking with a diet rich in vegetables.
The belief in blood type even shows up in employment. "A number of company owners have asked us only to send applicants of a particular blood type," said Naoto Saito, an employee of Nihon Manpower, a job placement center. "They claim they've noticed a marked tendency for, say, A people to get along well with O people."
One's type can even be an occupational hazard. "Fashion is an overwhelmingly B-dominated industry," complains boutique owner Yamazaki.
According to the Japan Red Cross Central Blood Center, about 40 percent of Japanese have type A blood, 30 percent are O, 20 percent are B and 10 percent have AB.
OK, so you want to know the details? The finer points of branding by blood type differ (depending on the source), but here's the general outline.